The Influence of Black Greek Life on Black Students

Nothing compares to the feeling of seeing and hearing a fraternity or sorority express their love for their organization, and in Black Greek organizations, the display of singing, strolling, and chanting are some ways in which they express their pride. The essence of “brotherhood” and “sisterhood” along with public service, scholarship, and leadership are some of the important parts of becoming a member, and it is a commitment for many that does not stop after they graduate college—it lasts for a lifetime.

There are nine Black fraternities and sororities, proudly deemed as the “Divine Nine,” which include the fraternities, Alpha Phi Alpha, Kappa Alpha Psi, Omega Psi Phi, Phi Beta Sigma, Iota Phi Theta, and the sororities, Alpha Kappa Alpha, Delta Sigma Theta, Zeta Phi Beta, and Sigma Gamma Rho, all of which are incorporated. According to Lawrence C. Ross, the author of The Divine Nine: The History of African American Fraternities and Sororities, when it comes to the success of these organizations, he credits it to “the collective realization that the unit is stronger than the individual, but that the achievement of the individual greatly enriches the unit.”

In our own community, there have been several graduates from Austin East High School, who went on to pursue secondary education at various colleges and universities, and while there, pledged in a fraternity or sorority, a decision that made all the difference in their lives.

Paulette Jackson, a graduate from the University of Tennessee Knoxville and a Spring 2015 initiate of the Pi Epsilon chapter of Zeta Phi Beta Inc., states that, “joining Zeta Phi Beta Sorority Inc as a freshman helped me find who I am as an adult in a new space.”

When asked about how her sorority helped shape her college experience and boosted her mental health, Jackson says, “The University of TN is a big school. It is easy to give up and be swallowed whole. My sorority sisters helped me know that I was not alone. I was able to find other women who cared to share about their day-to-day experience as well. I believe that my mental health was tested and my sorority was a great support to ensure that I am taking care of myself.”

Jamyra Carvin, a graduate from Middle Tennessee State University and a Fall 2018 initiate of the Eta Psi chapter of Alpha Kappa Alpha Inc exclaims that it felt great to join her sorority and be in network with people who looked like her. When speaking about the influence of Black Greek life on upcoming college students, she said: “When I see someone that looks like me and may have experienced the same things that I have, that gave me all the motivation to know that I can do it also ... Hearing someone speak to you about their accomplishments and process to become a part of D9, that does give you an extra boost to feel like you can accomplish a lot.”

Jerrion Joy, a graduate of Alabama State University and a 2019 Spring initiate of the Gamma Sigma Chapter of Omega Psi Phi, has found many takeaways from becoming a member of his fraternity. “I noticed a change in my mindset during my last year of undergrad,” he said. “I was very focused on achieving my goals. It also helped me strengthen my network in numerous ways. I have met businessmen and other like-minded people who have shared wisdom and knowledge which I am forever grateful for.”

Joy praises his fraternity for the community involvement efforts they do and wants everyone to know about it. “My organization hosts an annual blood drive every year in honor of our brother, Dr. Charles Drew, who perfected the use of blood plasma as a life-saving tool. We take health in the black community very seriously,” he explained.

Becoming a member of a fraternity or sorority allows the doors of brotherhood and sisterhood to be opened and the foundation of an inseparable bond to be created. It is not just about wearing the colors and letters, it is about the service and the well being of its members as well as their communities. Black Greek life allows black students to see themselves as making a difference in the lives of others the same way those who taught them and led them have, a truly rewarding accomplishment.

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